The battle against the opioid crisis is yet to be won
The opioid crisis is reaching new heights, where President Trump has now declared the situation a public health emergency in order to tackle the epidemic across America, which has claimed the lives of 64,000 US citizens, a steady rise from over 59,000 lives in 2016.
The US is not alone however – Canada is equally witnessing a rise in cases where opioid addiction has claimed up to 4,000 lives.
The opioid crisis is complex issue which has formed a significant undercurrent within the medical profession. Back in the 1990s, US physicians began to utilise opioids in order to treat pain within its prescription services, but at a higher rate than its counterparts in the UK and Asia. The country has consequently become the most prescribed nation in the world, with Canada coming in at a close second.
However, with the arrival of prescription-drug-monitoring programs and increased monitoring of prescription opioids such as Percocet and OxyContin to reduce such over-prescribing, demand for cheaper, illegal and stronger alternatives, such as fentanyl and heroin have moved from behind closed doors, to mainstream use. Numbers have steadily risen, hooking younger age groups and impacting the employment sector, with opioid addiction being one of the lead causes of premature deaths across the country.
Although Trump’s announcement has helped promote awareness of the current crisis, medical treatment remains costly, and with no extra funding put aside, it is unclear how citizens suffering from addiction will be able to the necessary access support, especially those with low incomes or those who live in rural locations. Access to drugs such as Naloxone, which counteracts and reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, remains out of reach for many.
Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of opioid policy research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, informed The New York Times: “What we need is for the President to seek an appropriation from Congress, I believe in the billions, so that we can rapidly expand access for effective outpatient opioid addiction treatments.
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“Until those treatments are easier to access than heroin or fentanyl, overdose deaths will remain at record-high levels.”
With this in mind, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has announced that it aims to promote the use of “medication assisted treatment,” in order to rid the negative image and stigma it has adopted and convince those with an addiction to seek essential support.
However, the founder of Insys Therapeutics, John Kapoor, has recently been charged with leading a nationwide bribing scheme involving the use of the painkiller Subsys, which medical professionals were encouraged to overprescribe to patients. Amidst growing public anger, many believe that the medical profession has placed profit above patient care.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has said: “Pharmaceutical companies have made billions of dollars in profits by misrepresenting to tens of millions of doctors and patients the significant dangers of prescription opioids.”
Nonetheless, the actions of the medical profession are unsurprising, given that financial reimbursement would have been higher if an opioid was given within pain management. realising the long-term impacts, Medicare has now scrapped all queries relating to pain management within its Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), undertaken by physicians.
Additionally, Medicaid, under ACA, has become the one essential healthcare provision low-income families and citizens have utilising to gain treatment for addiction, yet this could be scrapped under the Trump administration, creating further complications.
Check Point: Securing the future of enterprise IT
Cybersecurity solutions provider Check Point was founded in 1993 with a mission to secure ‘everything,’ and that includes the cloud. Conscious that nothing remains static in the digital world, the company prides itself on an ability to integrate new technology with its solutions. Across almost three decades in operation, Check Point, with its team of over 3,500 experts, has become adept at protecting networks, endpoints, mobile, IoT, and cloud.
“The pandemic has been somewhat of an accelerator in the evolution of cyber risk,” explains Erez Yarkoni, Global VP for Cloud Business. “We had remote workers and cloud adoption a long time beforehand, but now the volume and surface area is far greater.” Formerly a CIO for several big-name telcos before joining Check Point in 2019, Yarkoni considers the cloud to be “part of [his] heritage” and one of modern IT’s most valuable tools.
Check Point has three important ‘product families’, Quantum, CloudGuard, and Harmony, with each one providing another layer of holistic IT protection:
- Quantum: secures enterprise networks from sophisticated cyber attacks
- CloudGuard: acts as a scalable and unified cloud-native security platform for the protection of any cloud
- Harmony: protects remote users and devices from cyber threats that might compromise organisational data
However, more than just providing security, Yarkoni emphasises the need for software to be proactive and minimise the possibility of threats in the first instance. This is something Check Point assuredly delivers, “the industry recognises that preventing, not just detecting, is crucial. Check Point has one platform that gives customers the end-to-end cover they need; they don't have to go anywhere else. That level of threat prevention capability is core to our DNA and across all three product lines.”
In many ways, Check Point’s solutions’ capabilities have actually converged to meet the exact working requirements of contemporary enterprise IT. As more companies embark on their own digital transformation journeys in the wake of COVID-19, the inevitability of unforeseen threats increases, which also makes forming security-based partnerships essential. Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) sought out Check Point for this very reason when it was in the process of selecting Microsoft Azure as its cloud provider. “Let's be clear: Azure is a secure cloud, but when you operate in a cloud you need several layers of security and governance to prevent mistakes from becoming risks,” Yarkoni clarifies.
The partnership is a distinctly three-way split, with each bringing its own core expertise and competencies. More than that, Check Point, HOOPP and Microsoft are all invested in deepening their understanding of each other at an engineering and developmental level. “Both of our organisations (Check Point and Microsoft) are customer-obsessed: we look at the problem from the eyes of the customer and ask, ‘Are we creating value?’” That kind of focus is proving to be invaluable in the digital era, when the challenges and threats of tomorrow remain unpredictable. In this climate, only the best protected will survive and Check Point is standing by, ready to help.
“HOOPP is an amazing organisation,” concludes Yarkoni. “For us to be successful with a customer and be selected as a partner is actually a badge of honor. It says, ‘We passed a very intense and in-depth inspection by very smart people,’ and for me that’s the best thing about working with organisations like HOOPP.”